Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species trigger metformin-dependent antitumor immunity via activation of Nrf2/mTORC1/p62 axis in tumor-infiltrating CD8T lymphocytes

Mikako Nishida, Nahoko Yamashita, Taisaku Ogawa, Keita Koseki, Eiji Warabi, Tomoyuki Ohue, Masaaki Komatsu, Hirokazu Matsushita, Kazuhiro Kakimi, Eiryo Kawakami, Katsuyuki Shiroguchi, Heiichiro Udono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background Metformin (Met) is the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes mellitus and plays an effective role in treating various diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and aging. However, the underlying mechanism of Met-dependent antitumor immunity remains to be elucidated. Methods MitoTEMPO, a scavenger of mitochondrial superoxide, abolished the antitumor effect of Met, but not antiprogrammed cell death (PD-1) antibody (Ab) treatment. Consequently, we studied the mechanism of the Met-induced antitumor effect. Expressions of glucose transporter (Glut)-1, mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS), interferon (IFN)-I 3, Ki67, autophagy markers, activation markers for NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), and mammalian target of rapamaycin complex 1 (mTORC1) in CD8 + tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes (CD8TILs) were examined by flow cytometry analysis. In addition, conditional knockout mice for Nrf2 and p62 were used to detect these markers, together with the monitoring of in vivo tumor growth. RNA sequencing was performed for CD8TILs and tumor cells. Melanoma cells containing an IFN-γreceptor (IFNI 3R) cytoplasmic domain deletion mutant was overexpressed and used for characterization of the metabolic profile of those tumor cells using a Seahorse Flux Analyzer. Results Met administration elevates mtROS and cell surface Glut-1, resulting in the production of IFN-γin CD8TILs. mtROS activates Nrf2 in a glycolysis-dependent manner, inducing activation of autophagy, glutaminolysis, mTORC1, and p62/SQSTM1. mTORC1-dependent phosphorylation of p62 at serine 351 (p-p62(S351)) is also involved in activation of Nrf2. Conditional deletion of Nrf2 in CD8TILs abrogates mTORC1 activation and antitumor immunity by Met. In synergy with the effect of anti-PD-1 Ab, Met boosts CD8TIL proliferation and IFN-γsecretion, resulting in decreased glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation in tumor cells. Consequently, Glut-1 is elevated in CD8TILs, together with the expansion of activated dendritic cells. Moreover, tumor cells lacking in IFNI 3R signaling abolish IFN-γproduction and proliferation of CD8TILs. Conclusions We found that Met stimulates production of mtROS, which triggers Glut-1 elevation and Nrf2 activation in CD8TILs. Nrf2 activates mTORC1, whereas mTORC1 activates Nrf2 in a p-p62(S351)-dependent manner, thus creating a feedback loop that ensures CD8TILs' proliferation. In combination with anti-PD-1 Ab, Met stimulates robust proliferation of CD8TILs and IFN-γsecretion, resulting in an IFN-I 3-dependent reprogramming of the tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002954
JournalJournal for immunotherapy of cancer
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 16 2021


  • adaptive immunity
  • cd8-positive T-lymphocytes
  • immunomodulation
  • lymphocytes
  • tumor microenvironment
  • tumor-infiltrating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species trigger metformin-dependent antitumor immunity via activation of Nrf2/mTORC1/p62 axis in tumor-infiltrating CD8T lymphocytes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this